“O WORLD INVISIBLE, we view thee…”. The opening line of Francis Thompson’s incarnational poem In No Strange Land illuminates the concept of sacrament as the here-and-now visible representation of an eternal truth existing beyond our physical vision.
And just to ensure that we do not get too esoteric about that, also recognises that its perception in our daily lives is part of growing our spiritual maturity and emotional well-being.
Everyday Sacrament: Visual Meditations in an Age of Pandemic, by Shaeron Caton Rose and Anna Bland (published in association with Ekklesia and Leeds Sanctuary) roots this concept in a very particular time – the beginning of lockdown in April 2020, to July 2021 when the end of Covid restrictions was announced.
In these beautiful images and prose reflections, artist Shaeron Caton Rose and writer Anna Bland offer 15 meditations set during a time when there can hardly have been an untroubled soul nor a mind that did not feel some fear, dislocation and loneliness. They do not shrink from these difficult experiences nor take shelter in facile consolation. Rather they reflect back to us some of the discoveries we made about ourselves and our environment which are both comfort and challenge. In grounding us in a common experience, they have made a claim on the attention of many who would probably not consider themselves ‘religious’ but who were brought face to face with dread, uncertainty and grief – and found responses they had not foreseen.
Each meditation ends with a ‘meditative activity’. Through suggestions which include drawing, cutting, sticking, colouring, holding stones and lighting candles, the reader is invited to involvement of their hands and creative imaginations. The movement through images and words to making – a sharing of the creativity which is our inheritance – feels holistic and solid. It is, perhaps, a wise nod to the Rule of St Benedict: “to work is to pray”.
A few titles from the list of meditations will indicate the wide scope of this small book. Pause. I can’t breathe. The long haul. The shadow of love. Broken beauty. Quality time. Take them in what order you will, whether read chronologically, from the middle working outwards, or by choosing an image or title which attracts in the moment, the experiences distilled here may build to a solidarity which opens eyes that are willing to see.
To find that confidence is the path to building anew, to daring to believe in renewal out of what sometimes feels like ruin, and to grow into the unseen. The everyday is indeed an excellent place to find the enabling sacramental gateway.
* Everyday Sacrament: Visual Meditations in an Age of Pandemic, by Shaeron Caton Rose and Anna Bland. Siglum Publishing (ISBN: 978-1-1-69161733). This book can be purchased from its co-sponsors, Leeds Sanctuary by clicking here.
© Jill Segger (England) is a freelance writer who contributes to the Church Times, The Catholic Herald, Tribune, and The Friend, among other publications. Her acclaimed book Words Out of Silence was published by Ekklesia in 2019. She is an active member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and has a particular interest in how spirituality influences our social and political choices. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Jill became an honorary associate director in 2010 and is now Ekklesia’s Contributing Editor. She is also a musician and has been a composer. Her recent columns are available here and her pre-2021 articles can be found here. You can follow Jill on Twitter: @quakerpen